13 February 2014

South Africa versus Australia, 1st Test, day 2

Australian 1st innings: 397 all out
Shaun Marsh 1
48, Steven Smith 100Dale Steyn 4-78

South African 1st innings:
6/140 from 43.3 overs
AB de Villiers 52*
Mitchell Johnson 4-51

After our innings was brought to an end, there would have been a good sense of achievement for the Proteas after our day began at 4/297.  Only 100 runs were added to our overnight score for the loss of our final 6 wickets. Their momentum was quickly crushed as the day progressed.

Despite the minimal addition of runs given the context of our innings, Steven Smith brought up his fourth Test century in his first Test match against South Africa. A remarkable achievement against such a good bowling attack, especially given the situation when he initially came to the crease.

His patience was notable, his straight bat shots really impressed me. It would seem he lost his concentration upon reaching the milestone, but judging by his annoyance as he walked off the Centurion turf, he knew it all too well and this is an area of improvement Smithy can address. Well done youngster!

Shaun Marsh would have had a great nights sleep after day 1, with a century in the bag and plenty of pressure easing off him, given the circumstances for his selection and what he was up against in the quick build up to this fixture. He departed for 148 runs, but left the middle with his highest Test score and one of monumental importance for us starting this series. Now for consistency to be sought after, a word that doesn't really fit into Shaun's rather all over the show career. I hope this series he finds it.

Despite the batting, our lower order were able to push things a fair bit, with Mitchell Johnson finding some early confidence against a team he loves to bat against. He scored 33 runs and having looked into some stats, I found it interesting to observe that Mitchell's most prolific series with the ball have usually started off with some confidence with the bat in hand. Judging by his bowling performance, it seems to have that logic behind the saying that cricket is predominantly a psychological game.

It didn't take Mitch long to give the South African audience an idea just how fast he is bowling and how confidently he is delivering right now. Watching him live at the Adelaide Oval during the Ashes, I was fascinated how much pace he drawing off a very sluggish drop in wicket. He was brutal then.

Centurion offers more for a bowler and his delivery to remove Faf du Plessis was just over 150 km/h. It was a thrill to watch and to hear Michael Holding declare that it was true fast bowling, frightening pace at that, was enough encouragement.

Things started off with Mitch getting the wicket of Graeme Smith with just his fourth delivery. A sharp bouncer that had Smith tangled. The ball smashed into his glove and Shaun Marsh took a beauty of a catch running back from his slip position to dive and grasp the catch. Smith gone, a hand nearly broken.

I was interested to see Smith's preparation before Mitch bowled too him. He took his time, getting down on his haunches and staring down the pitch. Definitely some fear in his mind - and I can't fault him for that. When Mitch was ready, Smith wasn't. He was greeted with a ball just back of a length that darted on him as he tried to glance it down leg side. It didn't take long for the pace to see the end of him. Big wicket!

With that confidence, Alviro Petersen was caught behind just flashing at one wide of his body, getting a clean edge to end his innings. The pace once again played a role, as it did so with the dismissal of Faf du Plessis who seemed to only spot the ball as it rocketed into his gloves. The catch to Michael Clarke was too simple, taken, and the ball hauled into the air as our Adelaide nemesis was gone.

With three wickets down, The Proteas two best batsmen found some ground. Hashim Amla is always the danger man in my eyes, with AB de Villiers able to play a lonesome role amidst chaos. That was definitely the case for AB. His only blunder was a short ball from Mitch which he mistimed and experienced the pain of the ball thumping into his right forearm. No doubt there will be a bruise when he wakes up. Hasn't taken Mitch long to bring about some bruises.

While AB went about his job in stylish composure, no one really offered him substantial support.

Hashim Amla was plumb LBW to Peter Siddle, with Aleem dar only rejecting the decision possibly due to the double sound of both pads being hit, and not bat/ pad as he likely initially thought. Well reviewed by Clarkey and we had the danger man, and Pedro was on the wicket taking list. He has a big role of importance this series come pressure bowling. He needs to be on the money to tie down the batsmen.

Mitchell's last wicket of the day was that of Ryan McClaren. He was the last victim of the day outdone by blistering pace. The gap between bat and pad was ridiculous and an indicator how fast that delivery was. He couldn't handle it and was on his way, off stump uprooted.

JP Duminy offered some support but took on Nathan Lyon, mishit the shot and Mighty Mitch took a screamer at mid off. He's taken some highly athletic catches in that position, as well as mid on. Elite fielding standards have been on display again, and as we saw against England, it can seriously be the difference between the winner and the loser. The Proteas have high standards, so don't dismiss high quality fielding this series.

Ryan Harris wasn't as effective as I thought he would be on this track, but with just four wickets to go, I believe he will be extremely important to try knock over the Proteas tail.

With AB still out there, we still have a lot of work to do, but with 4 wickets in our way before we bat again and a lead 257 runs in the bag with three days of play remaining, I hope to see our guys find the opportunities to get the job done swiftly and effectively.

Day 2 was brought to stumps due to rain, the last ball a short delivery at Robin Peterson. He would have been relieved to trot back to the Pavilion.

Verdict: Up the Baggy Greens! Day one and day two secured as ours. Still three of the Test remaining, but the boys have given themselves the best opportunity to stay on top of this Test. Well done Mitch!

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